Australia: New law implements penalty system for payment for visas

A new law implements a criminal and civil penalty regime that makes it illegal to ask for, receive, offer or provide payment or other benefits to a sponsor in return for a range of 'sponsorship-related events.'  The new regime applies to temporary sponsored work visas and skilled permanent employer-sponsored visas, including the subclass 457 visa, Employer Nomination Scheme subclass 186 visa and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme subclass 187 visa.

This legislation is a response to recommendations of the subclass 457 independent review panel held in 2014, and is likely to come into effect by May 30, 2016.

Sponsorship-Related Events

A 'sponsorship-related event' includes any of the following:

  • Applying for approval as a sponsor or for a variation of a term of sponsorship;
  • Becoming (or not ceasing to be) a party to a work agreement;
  • Agreeing to be an approved sponsor for an applicant;
  • Nominating a person for a sponsored visa, or not withdrawing a nomination; and
  • Employing a person to work in a position or undertake an activity for which a sponsored visa will be or has been applied for or granted.

Related Penalties

Maximum penalties for breaches of the new law include:

  • two years imprisonment;
  • a criminal penalty of AUD 64,800 per offence for an individual or AUD 324,000 per offence for a corporation; and
  • A civil penalty of AUD 43,200 per offence for an individual or AUD 216,000 per offence for a corporation.

Executive officers (directors, chief executive officers, chief financial officers and company secretaries) may also be liable in particular circumstances where a corporation commits an offense under the regime.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

Employers should be aware of the new law and the severe consequences of breaches.

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK